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A Career in Esthetics



As the saying goes - beauty is only skin-deep – and this is good news for the skincare industry. The meteoric growth of the health and wellness industry is creating unprecedented opportunities and a dazzling outlook for licensed estheticians.

How to Become an Aesthetician

According to the Market Research Report, the U.S. skincare industry is expected to reach a value of $12.2 billion by 2018. The major drivers of this growth come from a demand for natural and organic skincare products and services, and a demand for anti-aging products and services coming from a baby boomer population with plenty of money to spend.

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This is all good news for anybody thinking about becoming an esthetician. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of skincare specialists licensed in the United States is expected to grow by 40 percent to meet the growing demand for specialized skincare services. This is significantly higher than other professions within the salon and spa industry, such as manicurists and pedicurists (16 percent projected job growth) and hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists (11 percent projected job growth).

Although esthetician licensing requirements and processes vary somewhat from one state to the next, all states that issue licenses to skincare specialists require candidates to qualify through formal training and the successful completion of both a practical and written exam.

Pursuing a Career in the Field of Esthetics

Estheticians (or aestheticians, as it is often spelled) are beauty professionals who are trained and educated in the beautification of the skin. As such, their main objective is to improve the appearance of the skin through non-surgical and non-invasive measures.

Through consultations and evaluations, estheticians determine the wants and needs of their clients, and then perform therapies, procedures, and treatments accordingly. Just a few of the esthetic therapies performed by state licensed estheticians include:

  • Waxing/threading/chemical depilatories to remove unwanted hair
  • Facials, exfoliations, and masks to improve skin tone, cleanse pores, and address skin that is oily, dry, acne-prone skin
  • Anti-aging treatments, such as laser therapies and chemical peels, to minimize or prevent fine lines and wrinkles
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Blackhead extraction
  • Wraps, sugar or salt scrubs, or moisturizing treatments for the body
  • Makeup application
  • Head, neck, and scalp massage

Completing a Training Program through a School of Esthetics

Estheticians in all states and U.S. jurisdictions are required to receive a state-issued license, with the exception of Connecticut. To earn state licensure and become an esthetician, candidates must complete a formal education and training program, or complete an apprenticeship under the supervision and guidance of a licensed esthetician.

Esthetics programs, which are available through either dedicated schools of esthetics or schools of cosmetology, must meet the requirements set forth by each state’s board of cosmetology. Most states recognize esthetics programs that consist of 600 hours of coursework and practical training, although a number of states require more hours while others require significantly fewer. For example, esthetician license candidates in Wisconsin must complete a program that is at least 450 hours long, while candidates in Indiana must complete a program consisting of at least 700 hours.

Esthetics programs blend theory and practical study that will introduce students to everything from facials and makeup artistry to physiology and sanitation. These programs also include coursework that covers the business, ethics and professional standards of the esthetics industry.

Aspiring estheticians often select a program based on a number of factors, such as:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Class schedules
  • Part-time/evening/distance education options
  • Teaching philosophies
  • Class size

With the exception of Connecticut, which does not license estheticians, individuals practicing esthetics must be state licensed to do so. It is against the law to practice esthetics without a valid and current state license.

While some states use their own state-specific exams, many use the national esthetics examinations created by the National-Interstate Council on State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC).

Exploring Professional Opportunities in Esthetics

Estheticians may work in a number of settings, including full-service salons or spas, destination resorts/spas, cruise ships, esthetics salons or spas, wellness centers, and physician’s offices. Estheticians are also often found working alongside dermatologists and plastic surgeons in medical offices. Although esthetician services are not medical in nature, this type of partnership is often beneficial because estheticians can provide clients with procedures and therapies that complement medical treatments.

In spa settings, estheticians perform many treatments that are meant to relax and rejuvenate the client, as well as promote health and beautify the skin. For example, aromatherapy treatments using essential oils, herbs, and spices are very popular in day spas, resort spas, and the like.

Experienced estheticians also often go on to work as freelancers in the movie, television, fashion, and theater industries, and they often specialize their careers in niche industries, such as the lucrative bridal business. Most exciting, perhaps, is the fact that many estheticians become business owners themselves, opening salons, spas, or esthetics clinics of their own.

Those aspiring to become estheticians may also find information and resources through the following organizations:

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